In the Hebrew Bible, the site was initially where apostate Jews and followers of the various Ba’als and Caananite gods, including Moloch, sacrificed their children by fire. The use of this area for tombs continued into the first centuries BCE and CE. With the arrival of the Romans, who were the only group known to practice cremation in this region, the area became not only a burial site, but also a place for cremation of the dead. Already regarded as a dammed place by Jewish folklore, the “Fires of Gehenna” became the place where the dead bodies of non-Jewish travelers, foreign merchants, criminals and apostates found their final destination. In fact, it is said through tradition that the 30 pieces of silver paid by the Priests to Judas to betray Jesus came from a collection of money from the temple money collection that was earmarked for the disposal of non-Jews that had the met their demise on their sacred land. This fund of money was regarded as tainted or “dirty” because of its purpose.
In Matthew 23:33, we see the statement directed to the Pharisees: “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you to escape the sentence of, ‘Gehenna’?”
The fires pits of Gehenna clearly gave us the idea of permanent torment and damnation through the fire element. In this idea, Hell is a place of intense suffering, permeated with the heat of fire and brimstone. It is interesting how this imagery differs from the version of hell given by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy. She asserts that Hell is not a hot, place, but instead is a gelid place, because it is the icy attitude of indifference engraved in their souls that determines the type of suffering a consciousness can endure in that stage.
Ultimately, we can infer that the mentioning of the Fires of Gehenna in many passages of the Bible simply means what would be the final destination of an individual that has committed a transgression of the common law or religious precepts as a result of a trial or judgment. In some instances, all that was needed to be sent to Gehenna, rather than a “proper” burial, was that the individual was not from Jerusalem, but a traveler or passerby.
Category: House of Faith